Paynter Has A Score To Settle
Just because the connections for Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes Runner-up Bodemeister opted to pass on the Belmont Stakes doesn’t mean that the entire team has elected to do the same. While Bodemeister returned to his barn in California in preparation for races this summer, the remaining team members are headed to Belmont Park in attempt to settle the score.
Of course if we were in store for a final showdown between I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister it would be the biggest Triple Crown bout since Victory Gallop vs. Real Quiet in 1998 or Easy Goer vs. Sunday Silence in 1989. But because they are not going to meet for the final jewel the story line of revenge has an alternate angle in 2012. Because horse racing allows competition to go well beyond just the horses it means that on behalf of Bode, his owner and trainer are out to avenge his losses.
Owned by Zayat Stables and Trained by Bob Baffert, Paynter is a Belmont foe that I’ll Have Another and his connections will need to keep an eye on. Assigned by the barn to carry the torch into the final leg of the Triple Crown Paynter also carries the tag of a potential spoiler. What separates him from Bodemeister is his ability to handle the Belmont Distance of 1 ½ Mile because unlike his stablemate, Paynter is bred for distance racing.
What makes Paynter such a dangerous entry in relation the Belmont distance is that his sire, Awesome Again, is remembered for how he rode off into the sunset at the conclusion of his racing career. After he opened his 4-yr-old season with a 1 Mile Allowance victory, Awesome Again elevated to another level when racing at a distance no less than 1 1/8 Mile. The five race and graded stakes win streak ended with an impressive drive down the lane for the win in the 1 ¼ Mile G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic over a very deep field that included Silver Charm and Skip Away. Although this is proof that Paynter has the pedigree to handle the distance, the lightly raced colt still has to show that he is ready to mirror his sire’s brilliance. The Belmont will be his first race over 1 1/8 Mile, only his 5th career race and 3rd Graded Stakes all time.
Just like Bodemeister however, Paynter also waited until the beginning of 2012 before his racing career officially got underway at Santa Anita. After he won that race, a 5 ½ Furlong MSW on 2/18, is when Paynter met I’ll Have Another for the very first time. Regardless of the fact that he didn’t break clean from the post yet still managed to show a solid effort in his very first Graded Stakes, he wasn’t ready for IHA in the Santa Anita Derby. His 4th place finish made it nearly impossible to qualify for the Kentucky Derby so the Belmont Stakes became the likely choice for an entry into the 2012 Triple Crown.
Paynter’s preparation for the Belmont Stakes has been ideal. After bouncing back from the Santa Anita Derby with a 2nd place finish in the 1 Mile G3 Derby Trial, Paynter joined Bodemeister for the trip from Churchill Downs to Pimlico where he won a 1 1/16 Mile Allowance on the Preakness Stakes undercard. What’s interesting about his win is that the jockey that got him there might be chosen to return for the Belmont Stakes.
Mike Smith was aboard Paynter for the very first time when he hardly broke a sweat en route to guiding the colt through a hand ride down the stretch and a 5 ½ length victory. He he has been right there and only strides away from beating I’ll Have Another in back to back races so who other than Mike Smith has a better idea of how to get the best of him in the Belmont. Although it hasn’t been confirmed, it’s only logical that Mike Smith will be back in the irons to give the barn a collective team effort in their attempt to get even.
A wonderful attribute about horse racing is the amount of connections that are tied to a horse. It’s because of this that allows the sport to showcase a competition that goes beyond just the horses in the 2012 Belmont Stakes, a race that is well within the reach of completing the first Triple Crown win since 1978. Although the gritty and gusty horse that made I’ll Have Another earn the first two legs will not be in New York his stablemate and entire team will be. A word advice to I’ll Have Another; They’re going to be targeting you for retribution so don’t forget what those silks looked like, you may be pressed to chase them down again.
Written by: Little Brink